Search for Flight 370 Falls to Deep Sea Robot

Beijing — The pings have sputtered out in the multinational search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, forcing search crews to deploy an underwater robot to find a plane that’s eluded human efforts.

In a last-ditch effort to find the Boeing 777 and its black box flight recorders, a U.S. Navy submersible vehicle will be used to scan an area in the southern Indian Ocean for debris.

“We haven’t had a single detection in six days, so I guess it’s time to go underwater,” Angus Houston, who heads Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Center, told a news conference in that country’s western city of Perth on Monday.

The remote-controlled Bluefin-21 was to start sonar scans of the seabed possibly later Monday. That seabed lies about 2.8 miles below the surface of the water, right at the edge of the Bluefin’s operating range, and about 1,360 miles northwest of Perth.

Detection of electronic signals in the area last week raised hopes that search crews would soon find the flight recorders from MH370, a Beijing-bound jet that disappeared more than a month ago with 239 people aboard, two-thirds of whom were Chinese citizens. The flight recorders are vital in determining who or what caused the airliner to veer off course and presumably crash in the southern Indian Ocean.